How does Miller present ideas about settling for half in the play? Essay
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One of the strongest messages that Miller presents about ‘settling for half’ is that there is a need to settle for half between Sicilian morals and the US Law system. At the beginning of the play, the chorus figure, Alfieri, states how ‘we settle for half and we like it’, and this ‘settling for half’ is again repeated at the end of the play. It is likely that Alfieri is a figure of authorial intrusion, and so these views about ‘settling for half’ are likely to be Miller’s own.
Because Alfieri is a ‘lawyer’, he is naturally a symbol of the US Law system. He is described to be ‘in his fifties, turning gray’. This is possibly used by Miller to suggest that the US Law system is 50 years out of date, and the fact that he is ‘turning gray’ could be symbolic of how the US Law System is becoming increasingly out of date.
Furthermore, the illustration of ‘gray’ hair could be a blend between the ‘black and white’ US Law system, and so, through this, it is likely that Miller is trying to convey his own thoughts of the workings of the US Law System. However, Miller also criticises the Sicilian moral code, by portraying Marco’s downfall. Initially, the audience are told that Marco arrives to earn money to provide for his family. However, his belief in Italian Morals, and the belief that ‘all the law is not in a book’ results in him killing Eddie, and therefore, having no choice but to be deported back to Italy.
He even states that ‘in my country he would be dead now’, and this is used to highlight the severity and ruthlessness that the Italian Morals can operate with. Through the fact that neither men get what they want through the US Law system, and Alfieri states that ‘there is nothing you can do’ and that ‘the hearing is just a formality, but also that the reliance on Italian morals leads to the downfall of both men, it is possible that Miller is trying to showcase the need to settle for half between the US Law system and the Italian moral code.
Furthermore, Miller portrays messages about settling for half through the portrayal of Beatrice, and especially suggests ideas about the need to settle for half between the roles of a loyal housewife and a strong female personality. From the outset of the play, Beatrice is portrayed as a loyal, somewhat stereotypical 1950s housewife. She is seen to ‘start into the kitchen’, and state that ‘I was gonna wash the walls’, showing how she is responsible for housekeeping, but she is also portrayed as independent in the way that she is seen to do these things without any prompting or command. However, she is also portrayed as someone who is not afraid to challenge Eddie.
Throughout the poem, she is seen to say phrases such as ‘She’s no baby no more’ and ‘When am I gonna be a wife again’. The fact that she questions somewhat masculine responsibilities such as Eddie’s sexuality and the future of the children is somewhat unstereotypical of a 1950s housewife, and so, this would be somewhat shocking or surprising to the audience. In fact, at the end of the play, Beatrice’s ‘final thrust is to turn toward him instead of running away’, which shows that she is the only one in the play to challenge Eddie’s questionable behaviour, in a play full of ‘turning away’ and ‘covering the eyes’, and this leads to Beatrice assuming a sort of ‘heroine’ role in the play, and in fact, Beatrice’s actions are those which bring about Eddie’s catharsis – characteristic of a Greek Tragedy-style play.
This causes Eddie to realise his love for Beatrice, and while he dies, he calls ‘Oh, B, My B’, which is indicative of the rebirth of Eddie’s affection for Beatrice. However, this unstereotypical yet powerful behaviour leads to Beatrice becoming quite a tragic character in the play, with Eddie dying in her arms, and so, Miller is possibly trying to suggest that there is a need to settle for half between the roles of an independent powerful figure and a loyal housewife.
In addition, Miller presents the need to settle for half through the presentation of Eddie. Initially, we can see that Eddie’s love for Catherine may not be purely platonic, as he greatly enjoys the event of Catherine showing off her new dress to him, and states that he thinks it’s ‘beautiful’. It is down to the actor whether this phrase is mutter subconsciously or not, but it is evident that Eddie’s emotions and feelings for Catherine are possibly overflowing and he cannot keep them in.
However, when Rodolpho enters the scene and essentially takes Catherine away from him, Eddie is unable to ‘settle for half’, and his fatal flaw, which is his desire for total control, causes him to inform on the immigrants, which eventually leads to his own demise. The fact that he is unable to settle for half in a familial loving relationship with Catherine, and still allow Catherine herself to be in a loving relationship with Rodolpho is essentially the deciding factor in Eddie’s death, and the actions of Rodolpho, as well as this inability to ‘settle for half’ is what essentially accelerates Eddie’s tragic demise and his catharsis. Perhaps, through this, Miller is trying to suggest that an inability to settle for half will only in our demise.